My landlady lost her mother yesterday. I found out when I walked into the kitchen to begin making tea and saw her sitting at the dining room table with an olive-skinned, greying man I'd never seen before, crying silently. She told me what had happened and then introduced me to "Do," her husband who incidentally doesn't live with her any more. We very sadly fait la bise, said "enchanté(e)" and then my landlady apologised that it was such a sad way for us to meet for the first time. She explained she had to leave tomorrow (this morning) to go and organise her mother's affairs. Do took me upstairs to meet the neighbours who I can call if anything were to go wrong with the appartment and left me a list of phone numbers to call on the board in the kitchen. I said "Désolée, Corinne. Je vous laisserai ce soir" and went out to see a film with my friends.
The film I saw was of the same theme and calibre as what had happened. It was called Quelques heures de printemps and was about a terminally ill mother and son with a terribly strained relationship due to him having been to prison for six years, which only really gets reconciled at the end when the mother's decision to go to Switzerland to die with dignity is made. A few people I went with didn't like it, they said that there was nothing to it and the inevitable happened, but I think that was the point of it. You knew that it would happen, you just didn't know if the relationship would get any better, and that's what was painful. A lot of the feeling came from the cinematography as opposed to the dialogue; the images used, the audio which picked up every little sound of every day life. The silence really told the story. I enjoyed it, but like my friend said "I don't think enjoy is the word. I think it did what it was supposed to." And it did. I have never tried so hard to not cry at a film in all my life.
I left the cinema and it was raining. It's weird, the duality of the universe. The fact that my landlady (I'll begin calling her Corinne here, I think you'll all know who I mean) lost her mother yesterday, the fact that the film was by chance an extremely sad one, and then the rain. If you look for duality you'll find it, but yesterday evening was just too strange in how everything just matched up perfectly, but sadly. I felt like I was in a film myself.
I arrived home after the cinema and my Lebanese housemate, Dima, had made a cold Lebanese soup with Tahini and served it to Corinne, Corinne's son, Tom, Corinne's friend, Caty, and us two. The lighting was dull and Corinne was still crying, but through smiles because the people she loved were there and Dima and myself, too. It was hard to know what to say because obviously it's hard to deal with something like this in your own language, let alone a foreign one. I hardly joined in the conversation because it was too hard to follow and I didn't think I'd have much interesting to contribute anyway, because it seemed to me that it was a lot of family stories and personal jokes. I hope I didn't seem rude because I really, really am sorry for her loss.
Tom and Caty left and Corinne helped tidy things away in the kitchen with me and Dima, even though we insisted she go to bed because she had to sleep before driving all the way to the North of France this morning. She hugged us both and then just stood and held my hand for five minutes while she told us that we were really nice girls and that she was incredibly glad we'd come to sit with her tonight and that she really, really appreciated it. I held back the tears until I got to my room, and then I sat and cried for a good fifteen minutes before going to bed.
I woke up this morning to find this on the kitchen bench:
Two oranges and a pain au chocolat. The note reads:"Carey, voici pour toi -->
Je suis désolée que tu as eu a vivre ce moment difficile avec moi mais c'est ainsi.
N'hésite pas a faire appel a mes voisins si tu as des problemes.
"Carey, this is for you -->
I'm sorry you've got to live through this difficult time with me, but so it goes.
Don't hesitate to call my neighbours if you have any problems.
[Literally] I kiss you,
This post is beginning to be like what Dima calls an "Egyptian film", because you just don't know if it will end any time soon. But I just have one last thing to say to sum up. Corinne lost her father, her mother-in-law and now her mother in the space of just two months. Somebody as nice and welcoming as her doesn't deserve to have so much sadness in such a short space of time. But all of last night she just kept saying "C'est comme ca" and, like in the note, "C'est ainsi" which I guess is a good attitude to have. That's life, is pretty much what she's saying. She is one of the most selfless, caring people I have ever met in my life and, although I've only known her a month, I can say that she's already like family to me. And, obviously, it's hard to see your family be so upset. Mais, c'est ainsi.